Robert Tsai’s Eloquence and Reason

tsai-eloquence.jpgProfessor Robert Tsai (American University, Washington College of Law), who previously guest blogged here in January 2006, has just published Eloquence and Reason: Creating a First Amendment Culture (Yale University Press, Nov. 2008). According to the back cover blurb:

This provocative book presents a theory of the First Amendment’s development. During the twentieth century, Americans gained trust in its commitments, turned the First Amendment into an instrument for social progress, and exercised their rhetorical freedom to create a common language of rights. Robert L. Tsai explains that the guarantees of the First Amendment have become part of a governing culture and nationwide priority. Examining the rhetorical tactics of activists, presidents, and lawyers, he illustrates how committed citizens seek to promote or destabilize a convergence in constitutional ideas. Eloquence and Reason reveals the social and institutional processes through which foundational ideas are generated and defends a cultural role for the courts.

I’ve read a few chapters of this book earlier on, and I highly recommend it. Robert Tsai’s work is always interesting and thought-provoking. He writes beautifully, and he demonstrates with great insight how rhetoric influences constitutional law.

From a blurb on the back cover by Professor Mark Tushnet (Harvard Law School): “A provocative meditation on the ways the metaphors used in constitutional doctrine empower, limit, create, and recreate the public over which the written Constitution is said to assert authority. Intriguing case studies arise from the civil rights movement of the 1960s, the Christian Right of the 1980s, and the attacks on Jehovah’s Witnesses in the 1940s.”

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